Monday, June 06, 2011

Exploring Ekklesia - Redux

In September of 2003 I began this blog by posting a "manifesto" (for lack of a better word) entitled "Exploring Ekklesia" ("ekklesia" being the Greek word meaning "a gathering of the called-out ones" and typically translated in the New Testament as "church"). At the time, I had just left a leadership position at a Vineyard church. The post was, in part, a reaction against perceived shortcomings that I had experienced within the "institutional" church (which, for me, had been mainly Vineyard and Vineyard-style non-denominational charismatic churches). But it was also a description of a way forward that I believed (and still believe) God was leading me into. Subsequent blog posts are chronicles of that journey. I have grown past some views that I posted years ago, but I have left those posts in place to serve as mile markers. I have always found it disingenuous to rewrite one's history.

Eventually, this "exploration", which is chronicled in my blog, led my wife and I to become Quakers. As I read back through that very first post I can clearly see those Quaker seeds, even though I knew next to nothing about Quakers at the time I wrote it.

Back then I was also fixated on the idea of house-based churches. I surmised that having a special building dedicated to church gatherings was a waste of resources and a symbol of formality and institutionalization. I eventually came to realize that there are pros and cons to meeting in homes, just as their are pros and cons to having a building.

Here is an excerpt from that very first blog post:


Many believers all over the world have been, or are beginning to, reevaluate what it means to be “ekklesia”, and to strip away centuries of man-made traditions to get back to the essence of what “church” really meant to the early Christians. This “back-to-basics” way of being the church is referred to by names such as “Relational Church”, “Simple Church”, “non-Institutional Church”, “Open Church”, “House Church”, “Believer’s Church”, “New Testament Church”, etc.

Regardless of what it’s called, the basic elements are pretty consistent. Listed below are some of those elements. I would encourage you to look up the scripture references given:

· Meeting in houses, as the New Testament church did, or in other locations that don’t drain resources, but foster a sense of family and connectedness. (Acts 2:46-47, Acts 8:3, Acts 20:20, Rom 16:5, 1 Cor 16:19, Col. 4:15, Philem. 1:2, 2 John 10, etc.)

· Gathering in open, mutually participatory meetings, rather than as a passive audience listening to sermons. Moving from an “organized” to an “organic” form of Christianity. (1 Cor 12:4-14, 1 Cor 14:12, 26, Eph 4:16, Eph 5:19-21, Col 3:16, Heb 10:24-25, 1 Pet 4:10-11, John 13:35, etc. Note how often the words “one-another” and “everyone” appear in these texts.)

· Moving away from the unscriptural division of believers into “clergy” and “laity” castes, which has been the norm in church for centuries, and instead learning to function as a body that is directly under the headship of Christ. (Eph 1:22-23, Eph 4:16, Col 1:18, Col 2:19, 1 Tim 2:5, 1 Pet 2:9)

· Having a plurality of Elders (mature believers) who lead through service, example and supportive guidance as opposed to the “top-down” leadership style of the one-man pastoral system which is not present in the New Testament. Pastoring is not an office or position, but a function performed by those believers who are gifted by the Holy Spirit. (Matt 20:25-28, Acts 20:17, 28, 1 Tim 5:17, James 5:14, 1 Pet 5:1-4)

· Endeavoring to make decisions by Spirit-led consensus, which means giving each person in the fellowship the opportunity to provide input and learning to wait in prayer together, listen together and follow the Holy Spirit together, seeking to learn God’s council and the depths of His heart for the church and the unsaved when making decisions. (Prov 15:22, Prov 24:6, Acts 15, 2 Cor 8-9)

· Placing an emphasis on fellowship – really getting to know one-another and showing love in tangible ways. Encouraging one-another to fully interact as the parts of Christ’s body that the Holy Spirit desires each of us to be. (John 13:34-35, 1 Cor 12:4-31, 1 Cor 13, etc.)

· Using finances in biblical ways such as giving to the needy in our communities and helping one-another out in times of difficulty. (Acts 6:1-7, Acts 11:27-30, Acts 24:17, Rom 15:25-28, 1 Cor 16:1-4, 2 Cor 8:1-15, 2 Cor 9:1-12, 1 Tim 5:3-16, etc.)

· Sharing the Lord’s Supper (Communion) as a meal, as it was done by the New Testament church. (Acts 2:46, 1 Cor 10:16-22, 1 Cor 11:18-34).

· Studying the Bible together in an interactive, participatory dialog as opposed to a lecture-style monologue. (Read Acts 20:7-11. Note that in v. 7 where it says that Paul “spoke” or “preached” the actual Greek word is “dialegomai” which means to dialog, to discuss, to reason together. This is consistent with the interactive
teaching style of that day.)

· Prayer. Learning about what’s going on in one-another’s lives and taking time to pray for each other. Expecting God to move powerfully and speak to us as a

· Worshipping God, not just through the musical performance of a few, but with anyone being capable of being the “worship leader” at any given time (1 Cor 14:26, Eph 5:19-20, Col 3:16). Exploring expressions of worship with the idea of learning to follow one-another as we corporately follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. Including, but also going beyond music and learning together to worship God with our whole selves and entire lives.

· Evangelism, which takes place not through programs, but through pursuing relationships. Not by inviting people to a church service but by inviting them into our homes.

· Including the children and youth fully in the fellowship so that they can be mentored and fed along with the adults.

The core of what I wrote still remains my view of what church ("ekklesia") ought to be. In the seven and a half years since I posted this, I have learned much; experienced both tremendous disappointments and times of glorious joy and revelation; made many friends (and lost a few) and have (hopefully) become a little wiser, more patient and more gracious. Most of all I am grateful for the steadfastness of my traveling partner, Carla. Together, we have often been awestruck by the guiding presence and rock-solid faithfulness of our Lord.


Blogger Omar said...

Wow! There is a lot of Quaker stuff, even in that early post. Glad you found your way to our Meeting! :-)

3:30 PM  

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